Rapha come in for a their fair share of flack from the cycling community. Whether it is the high price tags, deliberate exclusivity of their products or their artfully pared down advertising, it is perhaps inevitable. And I take responsibility for some of that. If I am honest I like their products, I like their styling and what little Rapha gear I have I am pleased with. However I balk at spending £65 on a base layer or £120 for a gilet – I’ve blogged about it before, but for that price it is the brand not the product you are buying in to. My Endura made club kit and Helly Hansen base layer do the same job, but at half the price. Still, whenever I’m out on the bike on a misty morning, the first thing I think of is a Rapha photo shoot. Their imagery exerts a powerful romantic pull on my cyclists heart.
So, I like Rapha, even if I don’t fully commit to buying into it.
But the story doesn’t quite end there. Last night I went to an event organised by local members of the Rapha Condor cycle club (not to be confused with the soon to be renamed Rapha Condor Sharp professional team, it is a cycling fan club aimed at supporting the pro team). The stated aim of the event was to bring together clubs from the Greater Peterborough area to share experiences and successes. By way of cycling celebrity, John Herety of Rapha Condor Sharp was also present to talk take questions.
For my own club, St Neots CC, it was an excellent opportunity. We are an old club, but have a chequered history. A few years ago our membership could be counted on one hand and we came close to folding, but now we are rising again. Membership is growing and we are keen to do more, however, our collective experience does not necessarily match our ambitions, so this was an event not to be missed.
A theme that emerged strongly was every clubs enthusiasm for British Cycling’s GoRide scheme. Aimed at getting youngsters into the sport it really was inspiring to hear not only of the individual achievements of the riders, but, how it has strengthened and broadened club membership. GoRide is something my club is now actively planning to become a part of, so it was great to hear and learn from others experiences. In youth perhaps lies an ulterior motive for the Rapha Condor club. As of 2013, the professional Rapha Condor team is shifting its direction to foster and develop young talent. It was certainly insightful to hear John Herety discuss how he would count success more in terms of their young riders signed up to the likes of Sky, rather than pure numbers of races and titles won. So it is in their interest to support grass-roots cycling, that is after all, the pool for their future talent. But as club cyclists this is something we should benefit from too, however indirectly. While it is good to see a dozen MAMILs out on a Sunday run, the real health of a sport lies in its ability to attract and enthuse the next generation. My impression of the evening is that the Rapha Condor club are trying to do this. Whether it is bringing together local clubs over a few pints, handing out some prize musettes to promising kids or plans to support an inter club event it all helps.
So next time you’re in London, pop along to Gray’s Inn Road and buy something in Condor. If you’re on Wiggle looking at Assos gear, have a peek at Rapha’s site instead. In a small way you may be helping to support the development of the next Cav or Wiggo.